Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I heart the Me-Thinks

Look to the links under the things that make my ears hurt and click on the Me-Thinks. On the FW Weekly's dime, I took them out last Wednesday and then tried to remember the details. It'll run in the Weekly on Thursday, but you can read it down below first.

An Evening with The Me-Thinks

If you drive east on Belknap, you’ll end up in Haltom City. You’ll know because the background scenery turns into a loop of pawnshops, used-car lots and shade-tree mechanics. It’s a little like being in a cartoon, if said cartoon were directed by T.S. Elliot. Sometimes the scenery is broken up by a Vietnamese or Mexican restaurant, but mostly it looks about as industrial as a suburb can be. It’s not bad; it’s just, you know, Haltom City.

This is where The Me-Thinks are from. When you hear them, it makes perfect sense.

Ever year, The Me-Thinks win the Weekly’s Best Hard Rock award. If you had to describe them in two words, I suppose Hard Rock would work, but it does no justice to the poetic inebriation that makes them my favorite band in town. Instead of Hard Rock, try these:

The Me-Thinks are the sound of smog, collected and sculpted into grinning, slaphappy gargoyles.

They are the sonic manifestation of the bong rip you took right before puking.

They are an ’82 Monte Carlo, painted by Earl Scheib and driven by Rat Fink.

They are talented burnouts.

They are perpetual adolescents who have extended their glory days instead of merely longing for them.

They’re funny, they’re loud, and they bask in self-deprecating wit, while remaining untainted by precious, cutesy hipster-irony.

And also, they bring their own fog machine.

The band used to be a three piece, but now it’s a quartet. Ray sings and plays bass. He’s also Fort Worth’s answer to Coop, as his subversive takes on pop art have advertised pretty much every rad show in town for the past three years. Marlin is lead shredder; he also operates the fog machine. When he plays, he looks like a statue of Bacchus, if Bacchus hung out with the Norse pantheon. Will used to play drums, but now he trades leads with Marlin. His other forte is biting wit. In any other band, dual guitarists would merit coordinated rock poses, but that sounds like a lot of effort for these guys. The latest addition is Trucker John, who has filled Will’s vacant drum throne. He’s in a billion other bands, most of which are some permutation of hardcore. They are buds since junior high, and they make their own fun. Whether it involves booze, pharmaceuticals or vintage amps, they still manage a good time.

For the past 800 years or so (by my estimate, anyway), they’ve been chronicling their good time on an upcoming album. It’s called Make Mine a Double, so named, because it’s actually a double-E.P. If making a double E.P. rather than a single album strikes you as a cleverly moronic thing to do, you’re absolutely right. It’s reason #108 why they are the coolest band in town. But now the record is finally in the can, and it’s awesome. I’m biased, but I defy anyone to find a better blend of stoner-garage-punk around. It’s like Motorhead playing Circle Jerks songs, or the Stooges fronted by Fat Mike. Songs like “Burnout Timeline” and “Permanent Krokus” perfectly encapsulate life in the HC in its entire gritty splendor. If there is a need for a soundtrack to a house party gone off-the-tracks (and I posit that there is), that soundtrack is Make Mine a Double.

People tell me that my band, Darth Vato, plays party music, and I always respond with, “you should listen to the Me-Thinks instead.” Our partying is bush-league compared to theirs. I don’t mean to sell Darth Vato short, but I’m okay with being second-string. We’re in illustrious company, after all. To be fair, I think some of the best nights I’ve had have been playing with the Me-Thinks at the Wreck Room. When the “Best Of” issue of the Weekly comes out every year, I am genuinely puzzled that “Darth Vato and the Me-Thinks, Any Time They’ve Played at the Wreck Room” is not a nominee. I realize that we were nominated this year for our shows at the Moon, but I think our shows with the Me-Thinks are way better. This is not to say that the Moon shows suck; I just prefer watching the Me-Thinks churn out Turbonegro covers while drinking enough to forget my own songs. But whatever. Opinions, assholes, etcetera.

So I love the Me-Thinks. Even though they claim to be “Fort Worth’s shittiest band,” everyone knows different. Sure they get ripped, but they also shred, and they usually do both at the same time. They have a funny rule, though. They don’t headline. I know because I asked. Darth Vato is playing with them on December 15th. Since I think they’re pretty much kings, I suggested they take the midnight slot. Ray said, “Nah, because we’re only functional drunks past eleven. By twelve, we’re totally useless.”

Last week, I found out that this is really only a half-truth. I took them out for drinks in honor of their double-E.P. release on Saturday. Predictably, their capacity for functional booze absorption is a lot greater than they let on. What follows is foggy record of my attempt to hang with them and their crew.

* * * * *

I guess I got the memo wrong, because I show up at Fred’s at 7:30. We’re starting early, but not that early. I kill my time with a Maker’s-and-Seven at 7th Haven. So really it’s more like two Maker’s, but whatever. I reason that with these guys, plus or minus a drink isn’t going to change the evening’s outcome too dramatically.

Eight o’clock rolls around, and I roll back to Fred’s. Ray, Will and Trucker John have arrived simultaneously, and a couple schooners go the way of the dodo as we await burgers. Will and Trucker John will later be mocked for sharing an order of fries between them.

We’re on our third beers when the burgers arrive. Between bites, I get a bit of Haltom City Punk Rock History from Ray and Will. I ask them about Hasslehorse, an old band of Ray and Marlin’s in which Marlin actually played keys. Hasslehorse’s history is given cursory treatment, because it quickly gives way to a more enthusiastic discussion of life in the early to mid-‘90s. This thread leads me to believe that those years were little more than a series of keggers rumbling between the HC and Riverside Drive. The stories are populated by heshers and whippets and a trio of pilled-out scenesters, three chicks who would barrel into every party like Andy Capp tussling with his wife. Nowadays, the radius of the party zone is a little narrower. For the Me-Thinks, the epicenter is now their rehearsal space, a non-climate controlled tin shack, where they claim nothing ever gets done, except for a lot of drinking and the occasional screening of a Vivid Video.

It’s now 9:00, and we’ve put away three or four rounds. I should probably keep better track of this, but whatever. We make plans to hit 7th Haven before calling it a night. I know this will likely never happen given the pace we’re at, but it’s good to have goals, I guess, the road to hell being paved as it is. The next stop, anyway, is the Shamrock. Prior to this, we sit in my van listening fIREHOSE. Weed may have been involved. I don’t really know; at this point things are already hazy. Marlin never made it, and his absence prompts Will to deride his bandmate’s affinity for cock-rock such as Poison and Cinderella. Ray defends him, as much as is possible, on the grounds that Marlin just really likes hot licks. This, I think, is a dubious argument, but I say nothing, since it’s now 9:15 and there are still drinks to be had. We amble to the Shamrock.

The Asian Media Crew is waiting for us in the parking lot. They are as much a component of the band as Marlin or Trucker John.

The Asian Media Crew is a two-man operation whose ostensible function is to accompany the band everywhere and record any ensuing hilarity. There is a video camera, and I’ve seen them use it before, but tonight it will be employed intermittently. The Asians are Rat and Calvin, and they wear matching jumpsuits. Mostly they just drink and crack jokes. This past summer, I asked Ray if he was coming to the FW Weekly music awards. “Maybe,” he said. “Depending on hangovers, we might just send The Asians.” Sure enough, Rat and Calvin were the only ones present to accept the Me-Thinks Best Hard Rock Band award. I asked Rat where the band was, and he said, “I dunno. Probably at home being lame or something.” I can think of no other local band that makes public appearances by proxy, and this is yet another reason why the Me-Thinks are my favorite crew in town.

Anyway, we bounce into the Shamrock, where Marlin has been patiently waiting for the past hour. Apparently he didn’t get the memo either. Marlin is soft-spoken and considerate, and like the rest of them, enjoys a lot of beer. It’s 9:30ish. Round one (or round five or six, if you’re counting), is a flight of Sierra Nevada that everyone quickly polishes off. By 9:45, we have emptied round two, and One-Fingered Will (front man for hardcore outfit One Fingered Fist) brings over a bunch of Patron shots. When my stomach gets wind of this development, it knots up in anger. Its relationship with tequila is at best stormy; most of the time it is one of pure hatred. But down the hatch anyway, stomach be damned. I notice that Ray, Will and Marlin toss these down without blinking. Same with the Asians. I hope no one catches my grimace.
I didn’t walk into the bar clearheaded, but now my view of the Shamrock looks like a Monet painting. The joint is kind of empty; in my current state, it looks positively cavernous. Like Bat Cave cavernous. For all I know, Batman and Alfred are picking the songs on the jukebox. Evidently, they like Black Sabbath.

I don’t know what time it is by this point. My phone is on the floor, probably because I am unable to make a convincing fist. Still drinking, Ray and Will are discussing the Pogues. There is one rule about this particular topic: you can never talk about the Pogues’ music, but only about Shane McGowan’s gnarly teeth. Like an idiot, I break this rule by saying something about how Flogging Molly sounds like the Pogues. Will graciously steers things back where they belong, in the realm of Irish punk band orthodontics. Someone buys some Jager shots. After these go down, Marlin says they can call me a cab later if I want. I don’t know when later is, because it feels like 3 AM. Though I’ve drank with these guys at a number of shows, I forget that I am a rank amateur. It’s like being proud of getting your orange belt and then sparring with Chuck Norris.

My phone says it’s 10:42. I think it’s a fucking liar.

At this point, Rat is animatedly talking about grilling fish. He’s so excited that I think he has won the lottery. It turns out that he just really likes fish. He schools me on where to eat pho in the HC. I go to Tu Hai, which he says is good, but I’m supposed to go someplace else, which is better. I’m not sure, but I think Calvin is taping this exchange. He’s cracking up, regardless. But the whole table confirms, that yes, whatever this other place is called, it’s where you go for pho.

It’s 11:05. I’m trying to ease the booze-throttle back a bit, not that it matters a whole lot now. Will says he has to check out around midnight, but that doesn’t seem to slow him down. Same for Ray. While some more beers arrive, he tells me a story about being sixteen and sneaking backstage at a G.B.H. show in Dallas. I think this is about the coolest thing in the world, until he tells me about being a kid and showing up to skate a pool only to be overrun by the Zorlac Skateboard guys. Marlin gives me a burned copy of a Peaches album. I unsuccessfully try to stuff this in my shirt pocket. The three of them duck in and out of encyclopedic music debates, gently giving me crap for being a relative lightweight and giving each other crap over Rolling Stones songs. I wonder if it is midnight yet. It’s only 11:15.

The next time I check my phone, it’s almost midnight. I think the Asians have just left. Something about work the next day. Marlin has taken tomorrow off so his booze-cruise is still merrily afloat. Will and Ray are comfortable with loping into work beneath clouds of staggering hangovers, though Will leaves shortly after this proclamation. Something about driving home before he gets too gone. Eventually, Ray and I remain. When he leaves, I follow. I will nap in my van. My fortune is such that I have to make 9:00 flight the next day. I’m pretty sure I won’t notice any of it. I figure I won’t remember too much of the night anyway. Hopefully someone will, and I think this is pretty much par for the Me-Thinks course. It makes me wish I had my own Asian Media Crew. Too bad I didn’t grow up in Haltom City.

--The Robo-Pirate

1 comment:

ANDREW M. said...

very nice...

great article - great band.

and turbonegro covers? alright!